Last Saturday I attended an event called Hack The Classroom at Loyola Marymount University. Aimed at K-12 teachers working at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the six-hour program consisted of talks on the future of technology in education and hands-on workshops on how to hack your classroom with the top iPad Apps, Google Docs, and other technology. My wife, a Catholic high school teacher, had invited me to go with her, and since I was about to head up development of a educational software project myself, I was interested to attend.
Not having been inside a school in over thirty years — aside from visiting my wife’s classroom, attending my children’s open houses and delivering an occasional talk to students about game development — I really didn’t know much about changes in teaching approaches that had taken place since I was a kid. I was immediately blown away by the keynote presentation about technology as core curriculum, which related the evolution of educational thinking, from traditional (Web 1.0) to current (Web 3.0).
Whereas education in my youth was closed and industrial, the current view is that education should be open and ubiquitous.
Most surprising to me was the concept of “flipping the classroom”: the idea that teachers should present their lectures at the student’s home (via online presentation software), and that “homework” should be done in the classroom so that students having problems can be assisted by teachers or more advanced students acting as tutors. This is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing.
As excited as I was about these new approaches, I was somewhat dismayed that there was a need for workshops to show teachers how to use such simple resources as Google Drive, Twitter and even Wikipedia. However, I’ll give the teachers credit for recognizing that there was a need for them to step up and learn about the technology that their own students use everyday.
There are plans for future Hack The Classroom events organized for other educator groups. You can learn more here.
There was never any doubt about where I would go to college. I grew up within bicycling distance of California State University, Northridge — or CSUN, as we called it — and it never occurred to me that I to go anywhere else. What I didn’t know is what I would major in.
I was very much a science fiction and fantasy fan growing up. I distinctly remember watching the first episode of Star Trek when it premiered in 1966, reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was twelve years old, and going to see 2001: A Space Odyssey with my friends on my birthday. Not only did I want to immerse myself in these worlds, I wanted to contribute to them as well. I would draw pictures of characters from Middle-Earth, write Star Trek stories, and film science fiction movies with a Super-8 camera. And so when I entered college, I wanted to study either art, writing, or filmmaking, but I couldn’t decide on which.
However, when I went to preregister for my classes, I saw the long line of people waiting in line at the Radio-Television-Film Department, I realized that not all of these people were going to find the jobs they wanted, and I decided to just pursue General Education courses until I found a more practical major to study.
I took class in Introduction to Computing just to fulfill my liberal arts requirements, but as I sat in the computer lab waiting print out my homework assignment on the shared printer, I began to type out a Star Trek game. It suddenly occurred to me that a computer could be a creative medium just as is an easel, typewriter, or movie camera. Mathematics could be used to create graphics, logic diagrams were one way to tell a branching story, and coding was essentially directing the computer. The next day I changed my major from Undecided to Computer Science.
The following year, my COBOL professor later took note of how I was using the college’s mainframe to print out images of the Starship Enterprise, and he offered me a job as a clerk in an Apple Computer store he owned, the second computer store ever to open up in the Los Angeles area. It was working in that store where I met the person who got me involved in game development.